Obama sends New Year’s greetings to Iran
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Today is Nowruz, Islam’s new year, occurring on the day of the spring equinox.
President Obama recorded a message greeting the people and government of Iran and, by extension, the entire community of Islam, extending hopes for better relationships in the future and wishing them well in the new year. Touchingly, to me at least, he quoted a verse from the poet Saadi,the medieval Persian poet:
The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.
I don’t recall any US President since 1942 (by which time I was just barely old enough to take notice) paying such respect to a non-Judeo-Christian religion or culture.
Here is the video (3:35).
The reaction of a prominent Iranian-American is reported on Foreign Policy Magazine’s blog, The Cable
“This is huge,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that supports U.S. engagement with Tehran. “First of all, he is addressing the people and the government, which has not been done before. At one point he talks about the Islamic Republic. He’s signaling he’s not looking for regime change; he’s recognizing Iran’s system.
“You always heard Rice and Bush say ‘Iranian regime,’” Parsi noted. “It’s a big difference.” That doesn’t mean Obama doesn’t support Iranian democratization, Parsi said. “But he recognizes the government that exists in Iran right now.”
Parsi also found remarkable Obama’s comments that he recognized Iran has a “rightful role among nations.”
“When he is saying the U.S. seeks constructive ties between the U.S., Iran, and international community,” Parsi added, “that is signaling strategic intent. He is making it clear is that where he wants to end up through diplomacy which he supports is a constructive, positive relationship with Iran, to put aside our enmity. That is huge.”
The Cable also asked an unnamed White House official “if Obama’s message to Iran signals a concerted public diplomacy effort related to the Iran policy review underway…” The official replied,
He’s making clear to the Iranian people and government the future that he sees for the two countries and that we’re prepared to engage in direct diplomacy.
It is better to hold out a hand than to hold up a fist. I’m feeling profoundly grateful today.